Bruce Houglum will close out his 16-year career as conductor of The Concordia Orchestra at the annual Oratorio concert with a performance of Beethovenâ€™s “Ninth Symphony.”
Beethovenâ€™s symphony was chosen as a fitting tribute to Houglumâ€™s teaching and conducting career at Concordia, which together spans 38 years.
“There is a lot of detail work for the orchestra in this piece, and some difficult solo parts for our faculty,” says Houglum. “We’ll also use a much larger orchestra â€“ some 88 performers â€“ for the concert.”
The second movement of the ‘Ninth,’ known as the choral symphony, is familiar to many as the former theme of “NBC Nightly News.”
Houglum says it is a complex, philosophical symphony.
“In the first three movements, Beethoven is trying to figure out life’s problems and comments on man and his world,” says Houglum. “In the fourth movement, Beethoven brings all the elements together and then concludes with a new theme that all men are brothers, all are equal in God’s eyes.”
Houglum believes the power of the composition lies in Beethoven’s ability to convey dual themes of man’s attempts to do as much as he can, but also the serenity to step back and enjoy what life offers.
The concert will be bittersweet for Houglum.
“It’s an appropriate opportunity to conclude a career,” he says. “It’s time to move on. Conducting and teaching a full load requires so much physical and mental energy. I feel that I’ve done what I’ve wanted to do, teaching students and developing the orchestra at Concordia.”
Houglum’s future plans include attending concerts and participating in music activities with extended stays in Chicago and Nashville, where a daughter plays in the symphony. An essay by Houglum contemplating his career and retirement is featured in the spring issue of the Concordia Magazine.